Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Zombie Run

Ready to run
The dreary weather could not have been a more perfect setting for my very first zombie 5K run in Charlotte, NC. I took a lonely 2-hour ride to Charlotte because all of the people I invited to ride with me cancelled one by one. So I trodded up I-77 to check into Cabarrus Arena in Concord, just outside Charlotte.

The event drew 4,000 humans and 350 zombies.  The bait humans tied three balloons to their wastes. The rules were if the zombies popped all three balloons, the runner was considered dead. Some runners were cheating by hiding the balloons inside their shirts while others were holding them in their hands which made it about ten times more difficult for a zombie to grab.

In the spirit of adventure, I decided I would not do this. Besides, what's the fun in surviving if you don't do it honestly? That being said, the zombies did not all exactly follow the rules either, more on that later.

I loved this t-shirt.
Humans lined up in groups of 100 and were streamed out in 60-second blocks to the flesh-eating monsters that awaited. The run was very challenging. The runners were corralled into very tight spaces where groups of zombies would herd and although they were not allowed to grab or restrain you in any way, you could not help but stop while trying to figure out how to juke them like an NFL runningback might juke a defender.

There were areas you could just not avoid the geeks. You might round a corner and there would be a dozen of them blocking the path. Within about a mile of the run the two balloons on each hip got popped (actually at the same time by 2 zombies grabbing them at the same time.) I had a lone balloon on my back, and it was underneath my nifty zombie survival pack, which was just some of the above-averag swag that the runners received.

She was at the finish line when you thought you were safe

I felt pretty good about my chances with my lone balloon because the zombies were focusing on the runners with visible balloons and ignoring the others. For another mile, I ran behind a guy who had no balloons left and used him as a meat shield. This was working swimmingly and 2 miles into the 3.1, I was in no danger. That is, until a zombie sprinted up to me from behind (and I do mean 100 meter dash sprinting). By the time I noticed a zombie was on my heels, it was too late. He had a full head of steam built up and I had just ran 2 miles, there was not much sprinting in me. I was really upset because zombies generally do not sprint, especially like Usain Bolt. I even yelled at him, "that's total bull**** dude!"

This guy was in a ripped up suit and looked awesome
Some of the zombies were very clever. Many of them were dressed as runners, with running bibs and everything. This was kind of neat because it simulated runners getting eaten and turning. But it made spotting zombies especially difficult.  A few zombies waited at watering stations with their backs to the runners and looked like other racers. When racers would casually walk up to get some water, they would get a surprise.

One zombie, dressed as a runner, leaned down and pretended to be tying her shoes. When unsuspecting runners would pass her, she would run them down from behind (again, total bullcrap in my opinion).  All in all, I'd say only about 1% of runners survived with any balloons intact, and 100% of them only had 1 left. Several of the 1% that survived were the aforementioned cheaters.  The only thing one received for surviving was a sense of pride, but you didn't even have that if you cheated.

This guy was creepy. The dreadlocks are real
The production value of the run was pretty awesome. The group who put the zombie run on (appropriately called "The Zombie Run") had smoke, caution tape, barricades, electric fences, blood spattered all over the ground, people dressed in HazMat suits directing runners, emergency alarm sound effects, and more.

The participants, both runners and zombies, ranged in age from 4 to 75. Several young kids were dressed as zombies who had tremendous fun chasing grownups.
After the race was over, they had a Quarantine Party where the runners and the zombies got a chance to mingle for some photo ops, water, apples, chips, and energy bars.

Overall the zombie run was a fantastic experience even if everyone did not play by the rules. Runners received a t-shirt, zombie-survival running backpack, water bottle, and a few other miscellaneous things. The experience was one of a kind that really took your mind off the misery of running three miles. By the time I got to the end, I was actually disappointed that it was over.

I left her at the altar
When the run was done, I walked back to the car to prepare for the ride back home in, what turned out to be, awful weather. I walked the course backwards to my car which was in a parking lot that the course actually ran through. On the way back, I stopped to take a picture with my favorite zombie, a creepy bride zombie who looked awesome. She was by far the best one of the day. It's hard to get a full appreciation for her outfit but she was in a full wedding gown soaked in blood.